New evangelization calls all Catholics to share faith, says cardinal

November 15, 2012



By Mark Zimmermann


Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON - The church’s new evangelization and its call to share the faith is the responsibility of all Catholics, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

"It’s our moment ... it’s our turn to share in this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, this new Pentecost,” he said.

That sense of a “new Pentecost” unfolding in the church, he said, was shared by the 250 bishops from around the world who participated in the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization convened by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 7-28.

Cardinal Wuerl was appointed by the pope to serve as the relator of the synod, summarizing and reporting on the bishops’ suggestions and recommendations. In that role he introduced the synod’s work Oct. 8 with a global overview of the challenge of evangelization today, and laid out the values that he said must be the foundation of the church’s outreach.

After his return to Washington, he gave an overview of the synod Nov. 5. On the first day of the U.S. bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore, a couple of the U.S. bishops who were synod delegates gave a brief report to the body of bishops.

In a recent talk at the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington, he gave an overview of the synod.

Just as the first disciples were called by Jesus to be his witnesses, Cardinal Wuerl said, today’s Catholics must be witnesses to the good news and help others encounter the risen Christ in a world where many have not heard the Gospel or have drifted away or grown lukewarm in their faith. The challenges that the early church faced in bringing Christ to an indifferent or even hostile culture mirror those of our times, he said.

“We have to inspire (others) with the witness of our own faith, by our own lives,” the cardinal said.

Pope Benedict’s call to Catholics to take up the work of the new evangelization is a key priority of his papacy, Cardinal Wuerl noted. “Who’s involved in the new evangelization? ...The answer is, every one of us.”

Bishops at the synod emphasized the central role of families in sharing the faith, the cardinal said. “It begins in families. The task of telling the story of Jesus, of passing it on begins in every family.”

Young people have a key role in the new evangelization, Cardinal Wuerl added. Many young Catholics, he said, realize there’s more to life than what the secular world offers.

Cardinal Wuerl said the synod also underscored how people must remain connected to the church and its teachings as they deepen their own faith, grow in confidence in its truth, and share that truth with others. Bishops at the synod also emphasized that the new evangelization must unfold at parishes, where people encounter Jesus sacramentally and hear the word of God proclaimed.

The synod “was positive, united and pastoral,” the cardinal said, and emphasized a practical, not a theoretical, approach for Catholics to take up that call.

“We were there to talk about how to renew the face of the earth, to proclaim again that Jesus Christ is Lord, and invite people into that personal encounter” with Christ, he said.

The cardinal said that Pope Benedict in his opening homily for the synod emphasized three elements of the new evangelization. “The first element is recognizing the need for renewal of our own personal faith,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “You can’t participate in sharing something if it has not been renewed and revived in your own heart.”

Prayer and studying Scripture, the cardinal said, are critically important to that personal renewal of faith. “That’s how we learn of the presence of God in our lives.”

With the renewal of faith comes a confidence in the truth of its message, which is the second element of the new evangelization, the cardinal said. Recent generations of Catholics had poor catechesis, and many don’t understand what the church teaches and lack confidence in what they believe, said the cardinal, who has encouraged Catholics to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a sure guide for the church’s authentic teaching.

The third element, the cardinal noted, “is the willingness to share the faith. That’s probably where we’re the shyest. We Catholics tend to be reluctant evangelists. ... We’re so reluctant, even with friends, to talk about the important things. Young people are much more open to talking about the place of the Lord in our lives.”

Especially in the face of today’s challenges - an ever-growing secularization of society, materialism and individualism, to name a few - today’s Catholics are called to pass on the faith, he said, so people come to know and love Jesus who was crucified, rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit to guide his church.

On the opening day of the U.S. bishops’ annual fall general assembly Nov. 12-15 in Baltimore, two archbishops who were U.S. delegates to the synod gave a brief report on the proceedings.

Both Archbishops Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles cited the presence of Pope Benedict at many sessions - and for considerable lengths of time - as a highlight.

“The new evangelization continues to be the task of communicating that experience to the people who have never met Christ (as well as) those who have heard of Jesus Christ but have never experienced him as living water,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said. He added the new evangelization calls for “the locus of the parish as a unit of faith, where movements, and all pastoral endeavors, should meet.”

Archbishop Gomez quipped that with the strict five-minute time limit given for synod speakers, “every time I come close to a microphone, I get really nervous.”


Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Baltimore.


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops